Fitness trainers and nutritionists are in a forever battle, helping people understand the differences between weight loss vs. fat loss.
And even though they seem like interchangeable terms, they’re not.
A while ago, a friend of mine told me, “I can’t identify myself with your fitness page because you talk too much about gaining weight. All I want to do is lose it.” And this got me thinking…
The difference between weight loss vs. fat loss is kind of obvious… to me. But I’ve been studying fitness for a few years now.
Then, I realized that about 165,000 people search for “How to lose weight” on Google every month, which I know is not what they want. And most of the time, it leads to false promises and scam products, like weight loss pills, sweat belts, and such.
Let’s talk about weight loss vs. fat loss, why it is essential to know the difference, and how to shift our thinking about both definitions.
Changes in body weight are based on a simple premise: energy in vs. energy out. Or, in simpler words, it’s based on the calories we eat vs. the calories we burn every day.
So, if we eat more calories than the ones we burn every day, our body stores the additional calories, and over time we gain weight. If we eat fewer calories than we burn, our body starts using the stored calories, and over time we lose weight.
Simple enough. But hear me out because here’s where the tricky part comes in.
Weight Loss VS. Fat Loss
The “calories in vs. calories out” assumption sounds simple. And it’s true. Still, it’s way too general, and doesn’t differentiate the type of weight you lose (or gain).
Ok. You want to lose a few pounds…and “fast,” according to Google.
But let’s say you weight 150 lbs and you think you should be 145 lbs. Do you know how much of those 150 lbs is muscle weight, and how much is fat?
The numbers on the scale never tell you the full story. Two people can be 150 lbs and look totally different. One might be an athlete, and the other one might be obese. You can’t see that by only reading a number.
I am 96 lbs in both pictures above. As you can see, I had a higher percentage of fat on the left, while on the right, I have much more muscle and look healthier and in better shape (yup, I do have implants).
Listen. The important thing isn’t how much you weigh, but what your body’s fat percentage is. That is the difference between weight loss vs. fat loss.
Why? because bodyweight tells you nothing. And if tomorrow you decide to cut your calories in half, like many crazy diets out there suggest to lose those 5 lbs of weight, you’ll mess up your metabolism.
Your body doesn’t know the difference between a diet and actual starvation, so you’ll force it to go into cannibal-mode on itself and eat up both fat and muscle to survive. It’s our survival instinct.
To be a lean, healthy person, you want to lose fat without losing muscle. Even better, you want to lose fat while building muscle (and that’s what I talk about in my fitness Instagram, my friends!).
Why? Well, muscles are good for you! They give your body strength, generate body heat, support your internal organs, and make you look healthy. Also, check this out: Muscles are directly related to your metabolism, and the more muscle mass you have, the easier it is for you to lose fat. Boom!
So, now that you know the difference between weight loss vs. fat loss, you want to lose fat but keep your muscles, you’re probably wondering what the best approach is. Here are a few tips to get started:
Tips to Lose Fat
- Keep your muscles active through exercise. Try high-intensity workouts – they will help you burn fat by making your muscles work and build/tone them along the way.
- Feed your muscles with protein. Protein helps rebuild your muscles, and experts recommend daily consumption of 0.8-1 grams of protein per pound you weight. So If you’re 100 lbs, make sure you eat 80-100 grams of protein every day.
- Eat wholesome and minimally processed carbohydrates and fats. Stop consuming sugary drinks, candy, and highly processed fast foods like french fries or chips.
- Use apps such as MyFitnessPal or LifeSum to record your eating habits. This will help you get a realistic idea about unhealthy habits, and changes you need to make nutrition-wise.
- Ditch the scale. Like I said before, scales are deceiving. Muscle is denser and occupies more space in your body than fat does. So if the numbers on the scale don’t match your weight goals, you’ll need to adjust your goals.
- DO NOT buy any of those “Lose 10 lbs in 3 days” type of products. They’re 💩.
To recap: don’t oversimplify your body goals. Looking for ways to lose weight might take you to false promises and scam products. Your goal should always be to lose fat – and the best approach is a combination of proper nutrition and exercise. Don’t obsess over the scale because the numbers don’t match your expectations — muscle is denser than fat so you might be leaner but weigh more.
I hope this was helpful to understand the difference between weight loss vs. fat loss. There was a little tough love, but who doesn’t need that once in a while? 🥰